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It’s always something. Either there are so many records about Dad’s family out there that you don’t know where to start. Or so few that finding even one takes half a lifetime.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Spending just a little time with your family tree can make it blossom with Hints — the kind you really want, ones that matter.
Make an Educated Guess
An estimated birth date that’s at least in the ballpark will be more likely to generate a Hint than no birth date at all. Since ages and birth dates appear in so many records, a birth date is an incredibly important detail to include in your tree.
Think logically about the date you’re trying to estimate. Say it’s for Great-grandpa. What do you know about him? What do you know about his family? Maybe you know that Grandpa was born in 1906 and was the first of three children. Since many men started their families sometime in their twenties, you might estimate that Great-grandpa was about 25 when Grandpa was born. That would make his birth year around 1881.
To add that date to your tree, hover your cursor over that ancestor and select View Profile.
Click Edit this person.
From there, just enter the date in the appropriate field. When you enter an estimate, it’s a good idea to put “circa” or “estimate” in the Description box. Then, when you see that date down the road, you’ll remember that it’s an estimate. Click Save Changes when you’re done. Once you find the exact date, follow the same steps to update the profile.
(To make a note of how you arrived at your estimate, click the More Options button to the right of the date. Select Add a new source and then click the create a new source link. Title your source “Estimate,” and in the Notes section, include your reasoning. That way there’ll be no head scratching when you run across that date later.)
Another helpful technique for estimating dates is arranging details you know chronologically into a timeline. Using the clues you find in timelines can help you make educated guesses about locations for events as well.
Records are full of facts that can lead to more Hints when you add them to your tree. From a search results page or a Hint, just click on the record name to view the record.
When you find a record that pertains to your ancestor, you can add it to your tree by clicking the orange Save button then clicking Attach to someone in my tree. Follow the prompts along the way, and in a few clicks your record will be saved in your tree.
Remove Duplicates and Fix Relationships
Family relationships can trigger Hints in records where a family is listed as a group. (Think census records, beginning with the 1880 census.) There are also many records that name an individual’s parents. So having your family relationships in order — with the right people related to each other in the right way — can help generate better Hints.
To fix a relationship in your tree, hover your cursor over that ancestor and select View Profile. Click Edit this person. Then click the Relationships tab.
On this page you can add, alter, or remove relationships as needed by clinking on the Add, Change, or Remove links. And don’t worry: removing a relationship does not completely remove a person from your tree. It only breaks the relationship between two people.
Duplicates in your tree can make Hints — and your tree — confusing and messy. To merge duplicate entries in your tree, hover your cursor over one of the duplicates and select View Profile. On the Profile page, click the More options link and select Merge with duplicate from the drop-down menu. You can then select the duplicate entry, compare details, decide which to keep, and turn a split relative into a single, whole one again.